Reader’s letters - Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Record Breakers at St George's Shopping Centre. From left John Sharples,Norman English,Mandy Gornall,Roy Castle,Sir Tom Finney,Tom Benson and Alan Kelly on April 23,1982
The Record Breakers at St George's Shopping Centre. From left John Sharples,Norman English,Mandy Gornall,Roy Castle,Sir Tom Finney,Tom Benson and Alan Kelly on April 23,1982
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Day I met a record breaker

Some years ago I was in my home town of Preston in Lancashire. I had been invited to be part of the opening ceremony of the new St George’s shopping centre.

Roy Castle was going to cut the ribbon and six Guinness world record breakers were going to be interviewed or perform. I was going to dance. I had recently broken the world record for non-stop disco dancing by dancing for 15 days and 11 hours.

It was a fabulous day and I was in the green room with Roy Castle and the other record breakers.

We were chatting to each other and I noticed that an older guy was stood in the corner. He didn’t seem to be very comfortable so I sidled over to him to introduce myself.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m John Sharples, nice to meet you.”

“You too,” he said, “I’m Tom Finney”

“What record do you hold Tom?” I asked.

He muttered something about holding caps or collecting caps. English ones.

The conversation disintegrated and I returned to the fold. I couldn’t understand what was so special about having a collection of 100 caps. My dad had about ten at home. Pretty normal for a Lancashire guy.

The man went out on to the stage to the sound of screaming and shouting and very loud applause. When I went home, my dad killed himself laughing.

The man that I had introduced myself to was Sir Tom Finney, one of the greatest footballers that Britain ever produced. Needless to say, I knew nothing about football. I felt such a plum! God Bless Him and rest in peace Sir Tom Finney

John Sharples, via e-mail

Sir Tom fixed our leaky pipes

My most vivid memories of Tom was when I lived at the New Sun Inn, Ribbleton Lane, in Preston. I was nine years old and my dad Bill was the landlord of the pub,it was 1956 and I came home from school at St Luke’s, my dad said to me that there had been a leaking pipe in the cellar and that Tom Finney was in there fixing it.

Well I’ll never forget it, the idol of every boy in Preston was in our cellar! He eventually came up the steps like a star rising.

I was overwhelmed he said ‘hello, son’ and I said weakly ‘hello, Mr Finney’ and my body shook, I was the envy of my mates the following day.

At the same time I used to sit on the cinder track on my coat below the Spion Kop where my dad would keep his eye on me. Oh, such wondrous times it was 58 years ago but my memory can’t forget those very happy days.

God Bless Sir Tom and my wonderful dad.

Mick Fiddler, Preston

Wembley date with our hero

I first watched PNE in 1933, and so, born in the same year as Sir Tom, I had the privilege of watching him all through those years in the team, including the FA Cup Final. My brother-in-law, Jim Hamilton, was born the day after Sir Tom, and so shared with me all the pleasure Sir Tom gave us.

The last match he played for Preston in 1960 was a tremendous occasion, to be there was a privilege.

He was a wonderful humble character. Even after scoring a great goal, he would return quite quietly to the centre - no fuss.

Colin Craston, Horwich

A role for great in heaven’s 11

Sir Tom Finney. The greatest footballer who ever lived bar none. And a perfect gent too. You will be made captain of St Peter’s team in heaven for sure! God rest your soul.

Neil Farnworth, Fulwood, Preston

Planning cash is vital for city

The Evening Post reported on the amount of money Lancashire councils had secured from developers and land owners as part of what are called Section 106 planning agreements (LEP January 31).

I would like to take this opportunity to respond on behalf of Preston City Council in a little more depth than the story allowed. Section 106 agreements are an important part of the planning process. They allow for essential improvements to be paid for by developers and landowners rather than at taxpayer’s expense. For example, new roads, junctions, pedestrian crossings, bus routes, cycleways, footpaths and play areas are all funded from Section 106 monies.

The council has to follow strict national guidelines when drawing up these agreements with developers and landowners. We work very hard to make sure the agreements are in the public interest and secure the necessary level of benefits for both taxpayers and the people living in the area affected by the proposed development.

The council currently has 49 ‘live’ Section 106 agreements which value £2.7m. This means the agreements are in place but the money has yet to be spent and won’t be until the development has started, is in progress or in some cases, been completed. We monitor these schemes regularly to ensure the conditions of the agreement are met.

Factors outside our control mean some Section 106 monies have, in the past, had to be paid back to developers. For example ,if an improvement scheme has not been completed within the required time limit.

The council has to work with a wide range of statutory agencies to deliver the necessary improvements and it can be a difficult balancing act sometimes to align all the various agencies to work together at the same time in the same location. Remember, these agencies are working across a North West and Lancashire footprint – so they have to prioritise their time and resources. While this is unfortunate, of the £4.16m received in Section 106 monies in the last 23 years only £40,000 has had to be paid back for one scheme (in 2010). As such, I strongly believe the council delivers excellent value for money to taxpayers and the residents of Preston. We will never rest on our laurels and will continue to do whatever we can to ensure every penny of Section 106 money is rightly spent in the city.

Coun Peter Rankin, Leader of Preston City Council